Everybody enjoys a day out in the sun, not least our dogs, who will take any opportunity to run around and doze in the sunshine. However, as we all know, prolonged exposure to intense, direct sunlight also carries a risk of sunburn. In much the same way as humans performing manual labor outdoors for long periods of time, working dogs that are required to stay outside for hours on end are especially at risk.
So too, are regular domestic animals in danger of getting burned on summer days, as the damage caused by the sun is often hard to notice until it has already occurred. Not only will the sun damage your pup's skin, but it can also cause skin cancer and aggravate an already present skin condition. In this article, we will examine how to recognize the symptoms of a dog that has been sunburned and how to deliver treatment, as well as the ways in which we can prevent it.
How do I know my dog has a sunburn?
The symptoms of sunburn are typically quite noticeable, owing to the fact that your furry buddy will often signal their discomfort by whining and occasionally pawing at the affected areas. They will also go out of their way to avoid physical contact with the burned parts of their body. By carefully parting your dog’s fur, you will be able to see red, peeling skin, possibly along with bleeding if they have been scratching profusely. The nose may become dry and cracked in appearance, instead of the usual soft texture. There may be an appearance of curling of the skin at the ears.
In severe cases, it is not unusual for a dog to develop a fever in response to the damage as sunburn is caused by ultraviolet radiation coming into direct contact with cells and destroying their structure. Short-haired or white dogs can be especially susceptible to damage, as their skin will have less protection than other breeds.
What should I do if my dog has a sunburn?
In the aftermath of your companion being burned, it will be necessary to provide them with some form of relief for the pain. A popular home remedy is to give your dog a bath with added oatmeal, as the properties contained in the oats will act to soothe the inflamed skin. Man-made ‘aftersun’ solutions are also available, though you should be careful to only buy products that are specifically designed to be used on dogs. These will be much more forgiving than the formulas available for human use, with many of the stronger chemicals that would potentially harm your dog’s skin or quality of the coat omitted in favor of gentler alternatives.
If your dog has a severe sunburn, take them to the vet. The skin may be more damaged than you realize and may need to be treated with a cortisone ointment after the skin has been carefully cleaned.
How do I prevent my dog from a sunburn?
Of course, it is far better to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place than having to rush to treat it later. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that if your dog is especially susceptible to sunburn, you should look to buy them some sunscreen. However, it is important to remember that dogs require specifically formulated types of sunscreen and may have adverse reactions to varieties designed for humans. This is because many off-the-shelf sunscreen lotions have significant quantities of zinc in them, which is very toxic to dogs if it is ingested or repeatedly applied to their skin.
Naturally, you may be somewhat reluctant to apply sunscreen lotion by hand onto your dog’s coat, as this immediately brings to mind the prospect of matted hair and the need for a bath later. Fortunately, this needn’t be the case, as many companies now produce wet-wipes containing the necessary chemicals that can be easily spread on the dog with minimal hassle. Remember that when applying sunscreen to your furry buddy, exposed areas of skin such as those on the face and ears should be the first priority, with the upper back and lower legs being next.
If you and your four-legged friend are spending a few hours at the beach or another sunny location, bring along an umbrella for shade. When walking your dog in the heat, be careful of their paws. Avoid hot pavement and stick to shady, grassy areas.
The significance of sunburn
Taking the proper precautions to protect your dog from potential sun damage is very important. For breeds with short hair and lighter skin, sunburn can be a recurrent problem, especially in hotter climates. Additionally, sunburn can often lead to the development of skin cancers later on in the dog’s life, with this being more of a hereditary problem than a general rule. For this reason, investing in some quality sunscreen will go a long way towards keeping a dog healthy in the long run.